Learn more about flannel shirts along with their brief history and different types. We've also included a few suggestions so you'll be able to find the perfect flannel for your style and needs.
Flannel shirts — they’re quite popular for both men and women. For many folks, there’s something attractive about flannel shirts that cannot be put into words…they’re just special, you know? If you’re like me and you like wearing flannel shirts because they’re so good-looking and comfortable, you’ve probably also searched for the perfect flannel shirts all over town.
Well, I’m here to help you out a bit. I’ll discuss the types of flannel shirts, briefly go into the history of flannel shirts (it’s more interesting than you’d expect!) and show you some of the best options to choose from as well.
This guide to flannel shirts will help you choose the best shirts next time you go shopping.
Without further ado, let’s get right into it!
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What is Flannel?
Flannel refers to any wool, cotton, or synthetic fabric that meets certain criteria. The criteria are:
Flannel is either brushed or unbrushed in texture, and both textures are admired for their quality.
To qualify as flannel, the fabric must be incredibly soft. This softness is what makes flannel so cozy and comfortable.
Not all materials can make flannel shirts. Silk, for example, is too fine to make flannel shirts. Flannel should be insulative as well as soft.
Flannel can retain heat really well, which is why it’s such a popular choice for blankets, outdoor clothing, and winter pajamas.
Because of the way flannel is made, it is very breathable and won’t trap moisture.
These are the main characteristics that help people identify real flannel shirts and avoid buying cheap knock-offs.
Brief History of Flannel
The word ‘flannel’ is believed to have originated in Wales, and in France, it was used (though in the form ‘flannelle’) in the 17th century. Flannel was popular among the French as well as other European civilizations, and as interest in the material waned, it grew in Wales.
The Welsh used leftover wool to make a fabric that is moisture-wicking (it’s very rainy there!), warm, and comfortable. It became the common worker’s go-to material for clothes. When it reached English cities, the material became the working class’ choice during the Industrial Revolution.
During the First World War, flannel made its way around the world and became a part of the uniforms worn by US soldiers.
In the 1990s, flannel became popular with grunge bands and, in the 2000s, it was a fashion statement for hipsters. Now, flannel is worn by anyone who finds it comfortable and appealing. It remains a popular choice for people who spend time outdoors in the rain and cold.
The Types of Flannel Shirts
There are two types of material that flannel shirts can be made of. One is more suited for a sophisticated look, the other for staying warm when outside.
Worsted flannel has a ‘nubby’ feel and long-staple fibers are used and wound tightly together. These fibers are what give the flannel shirts their luxurious and smooth feel.
Made from long-staple fibers that were put through the milling process. It is a semi-smooth cloth that has a touch of nubbiness to it.
Worsted flannel is typically best for suits. It works better for professional suits than for more relaxed or outdoorsy clothes.
- Finely woven
- Not good for clothes to be worn in cold climates
This flannel is softer than the worsted kind and with shorter fibers and has a brushed finish. The weave is hidden and you get a softer, more matte finish.
The material has a beautiful feel and is quite pleasing to touch.
Flannel coats and pants are made from this woolen material.
- Great for colder climates
- Not used in more stylish wear
How to Identify a Well-Made Flannel Shirt
The popularity of flannel has caused many cheapskate manufacturers to try and cash in without actually spending money on making quality clothing and fabrics. Here are a few ways you can check if what you want to buy is truly flannel:
As is the case with high-quality materials, the weight is a good indication of their quality. A good flannel jacket or sweater will not be as heavy as completely woolen jackets or sweaters. However, it should have some heft when you hold it.
Flannel is soft and durable, and you’ll feel that when you run your hands over it. It shouldn’t feel too soft though and should have some thickness to it.
High-quality flannel should be brushed on one side, sometimes on both sides.
The hardware of the clothing will also be a clear giveaway of the quality of the clothing. Look at the zippers and buttons. They should be superior and not feel cheap and as if they’d easily break.
Collar and Cuffs
Flannel clothing has collars and cuffs that are hefty and firm, with careful and sturdy stitching. On the inside of your flannel shirt, you should be able to spot some of the hallmarks of dedicated tailoring.
When you put on a flannel shirt, it should follow the curves of your body. If it is shapeless or boxy, the material is probably not of superior quality and not worth your money. Take note that you have to wear the right size shirt for your body shape or you’ll mistake a too-large shirt for something inferior.
Good Flannel Shirts
If you’re looking for some visual guidance on buying the best flannel shirts, I’ve got you covered. I searched for some of the best and highest-quality options available and gathered my favorites. You should be able to find the perfect flannel shirt for your style and needs among these suggestions.
Iron Heart Ultra-Heavy Flannel
Source: Iron Heart UK
This is a heavy-duty flannel shirt that is comfortable but very rugged. It’s made in Japan from Aspero cotton yarn and brushed on the inside and outside. As a result, it’s very soft but thick and warm. Ideal for wearing outside when the air is chilly.
UES Extra Heavy Flannel
Source: Redcast Heritage Co
If you’re looking for a flannel shirt that isn’t in the typical red and black plaid style, you might love this indigo version. Everything about this shirt is high quality, including the ivory palm nut buttons.
Indigofera Norris Shirt
Source: Rivet & Hide
This flannel shirt is made by the Swedish brand Indigofera, which has a great reputation. The material is woven in Japan and has a tailored fit that will make you feel like a million bucks.
Real McCoy’s 8 Hour Union Napped Flannel Shirt
Source: Lost & Found
This flannel shirt is made in a vintage cut and made in Japan. Everything about it is authentic and expertly made. The flannel is lofty and has good heft, and the heavy-duty buttons add to the vintage look of the shirt. It’s a bit expensive but definitely worth every penny.
Here, I will answer the most commonly asked questions regarding flannel shirts.
Flannel vs. Plaid: What’s the Difference?
Plaid refers to a particular pattern that can be reproduced quite easily on any interior surface or fabric. Flannel is a type of material that is made with softness and protection in mind. Some plaid shirts can be made from flannel, but not all plaid garments are flannel.
What Does Flannel Fabric Feel Like?
Real flannel is supposed to feel very soft to the touch because of the weave and fibers used. Some flannel can have a fuzzy feeling, and this comes from the brushing process used to make it. Brushing the material makes it feel even softer than it already was.
Uses for Flannel Fabric
Flannel fabric is actually quite versatile. Here are some of its uses:
Flannel is popular for making clothes that are warm, soft, comfortable, and moisture-wicking. These characteristics make it ideal for people who spend a lot of time enduring the elements outside. Camping clothing is one example of clothes made from flannel.
Because flannel is so warm and soft, it is a good choice when making winter and fall clothes. You will find that flannel button-downs are very popular, and flannel jackets are also great for staying warm.
Many clothing designers like to make pajamas and sleepwear from flannel because it is so cozy and soft. Pajama tops and bottoms are very popular, especially in colder areas.
Flannel suits are quite the sophisticated choice amongst gentlemen everywhere. You’ll find them in two- and three-piece styles and are as beautiful as other suits, if not more attractive. They are definitely softer than other suits.
Flannel is also often used to make bed sheets, throw blankets, upholstery, and drapery. It is a popular choice amongst quilters as well.
Why Are Well-Made Flannels Essential?
Well-made flannels are a great addition to any closet because they are adaptable and timeless. The way the material is made ensures that it will last longer, and you’ll find it hardly ever goes out of style.
Just make sure you buy actual flannel clothing and not some cheaper, inferior imitation that isn’t as durable. You may have to pay a bit more for flannel, but this material is certainly worth the investment. After all, you’ll be wearing them for years to come!